Horror, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural, a novella from the 2019 New Bizarro Author Series from Eraserhead Press:
Dory wakes up in the padded room of a psychiatric hospital with no recollection of how she wound up there. She soon finds out she’s been Blue-Papered–involuntarily committed. She gets sent to the wrong counseling group and discovers a whole new world of psychiatric patients she’d never known existed. At first she just thinks they’re cutters, all marked by similar scars, but then she finds out that those scars are from carving into their bodies where they chisel and scrape their bones. They harvest bone dust, and this dust is highly coveted and sought after, as well as highly addictive. When they realize she’s never been”dusted”, Dory becomes their target. After all, dust from a “freshie” is much more valuable than theirs. Frightened for her life, she desperately tries to prove to the psych. hospital staff that she’s not delusional about these particular patients wanting to slice her open and scrape her bones. The staff doesn’t believe her. They all think she’s crazy. Dory ends up on the run, fighting for her life, trying to avoid getting “dusted” by The Bone Cutters.
Like Girl, Interrupted and “The Yellow Wallpaper”, The Bone Cutters is one woman’s dark and surreal experience with a madness that is not necessarily her own.
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Renee S. DeCamillis is a dark fiction writer, an Editorial Intern with Crystal Lake Publishing, a member of the Horror Writers Association, a lyricist and poet, a life-long musician–hard rock/blues rhythm guitarist and singer, & a tree-hugging hippie with a sharp metal edge.
Renee earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Graduate Program, she has her BA in psychology, and she attended Berklee College of Music as a music business major with guitar as her principal instrument. Music has been a huge part of Renee’s life ever since she was a young child. She has been in a number of bands where she took on various roles, including hand percussionist. Renee is also a former model, school rock band teacher, creative writing teacher, private guitar instructor, A&R rep for an indie record label, therapeutic mentor, psychological technician, and pre-school teacher. (Yes, she loves to wear many hats; she is known to have worn thirteen hats all at once–literally.) She is also a former gravedigger; she can get rid of a body fast without leaving a trace, and she is not afraid of getting her hands dirty. Renee lives in the woods of Maine with her husband, their son, and a house full of ghosts.
1.) What inspired you to write this book?
It all started with a nightmare I had. I was at a Portland First Friday Artwork with a friend I’d had since high school. She asked if I would mind if we made a quick stop to see one of her friends. I agreed. That’s when we walked into a large open room with a group of people all sitting around in a big circle. First I noticed that they were all grotesquely scarred. I thought they were all cutters and that this was a therapy group. Then I realized one guy was talking to the group—he is now Slug Man in my book. As I focused on what he was saying, I discovered that those scars were from carving into their bodies to extract bone dust that they would then use to get high. I was horrified. What shocked me even more was that Slug Man was the friend my friend went there to see. When I woke up I knew that twisted dream needed to get turned into a story. I began writing it that same day.
2.) What can we expect from you in the future?
I do have some short stories coming out this year in various anthologies, but nothing I can officially announce just yet. But the big project I’m working on right now, which is almost complete, is a comic book. I’m writing for Phi3 Comics. I am currently writing Book 4 of the Spiralmind Muses’ Rise story line, and there’s a potential to co-write the screenplay.
The other big project I’m working on is the sequel to The Bone Cutters. I hope to get that written and published by 2021. This one will come from various points of view, including at least one bone cutter.
I am also working on a novel, with the first draft nearly done, about the evil intentions behind the invention of the iPhone. Teaser: Meat suits are involved.
3.) If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I do think I could play the lead very well; I can relate to some of her anxieties and the pent-up anger she holds inside, but I think it’s very egocentric for an author to play their lead character in any type of film or stage adaptation, so I would have to say no. I actually love it when the writer steps in as an extra with only a line or two, especially in the role of a quirky, eccentric character—like a gravedigger. When I write a book/story with a gravedigger protagonist, that’s when I’d like to play the lead.
4.) Where did you come up with the names in the story?
The protagonist’s name—Dory—is short for one of my favorite names—Dorian.
Tommy, the janitor, is named after the first person who befriended me at Berklee, and that Tommy is a drummer. The topic of drumming comes up in a scene with Dory and Tommy, and he is the first person who befriends Dory in the psych. hospital. Some people think he was named after Tommy Lee, but that is not the case; Tommy Lee never crossed my mind while I was writing this. Though his name came from someone I know, Tommy’s character is actually inspired by Danny Trejo’s character in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, the psych. tech. who befriended Michael Myers in the asylum. I love Danny Trejo! He’s a badass!
Arie is named for the Jamaican meaning of Irie—all right—as in “Every little thing’s gonna be all right” from Bob Marley’s song “Three Little Birds”. That song has special meaning for me. I’m a big Marley fan and I wanted to incorporate that somehow. Also, the meaning of Arie is lion of God, and my girls here are a force of good, so there’s that link as well.
Nurse Hatchet was named that way because a hatchet is a weapon. (I have a slasher story—which still needs to find a home—where the street where the killings take place is named Cleaves St. I love to play with words!) My nurse was not inspired by the nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, though many people think she was. But in hindsight, she does bring that character to mind, so I understand why people assume that. I worked as a psych. tech. in a psych. hospital, and Nurse Hatchet was slightly inspired by a co-worker of mine, but not a nurse—a psych. tech.
Dr. Headstrom, the psychiatrist who plays a very small though important role, was named that way because he’s a head doctor. After I named him, I couldn’t help but recall Max Headroom from the 80s, and it made me laugh. It also made me consider changing the doctor’s name, but I laughed. I decided it was the perfect name for this character.
5.) How did you come up with name of this book?
I will admit that the title of my book is not the original title; it is a title my publisher recommended. The original title was Chiseled High. My publisher was concerned that title would make people think the book is about a high school with a bunch of buff dudes or something, so she suggested The Bone Cutters. When she told me what my original title made her think of, I couldn’t help but laugh. I had never even thought of that, but I could see her point, which made me laugh harder. I had come up with a different title idea, but my publisher had reasons for thinking that one wasn’t a good fit for this book. I saw her point, and agreed, and now I am saving that title idea of mine for the sequel to The Bone Cutters.
6.) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I do sometimes think about a certain confrontational scene in the book that I might like to make different, and perhaps a little better, but I can’t dwell on that. I still like how it’s written because it fits certain aspects of the book and the characters. I think some of my rethinking about it is partly due to reader responses, but I also know that when I wrote that scene I was also wondering if I should write if differently. I was writing for a submission deadline, and, honestly, I also didn’t think I had enough time to revise the scene and get it tight by the deadline. So I left it alone. Again, I can’t dwell on that now. I just take that forward with me while I write the sequel. Who knows, maybe one day I will rewrite that scene with a reissue of the book. You can’t always tell what the future will bring.
7) Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Less is more—that is the big lesson I learned. I’m normally an all-in sort of writer. Everything in my head goes on the page. But not everything in my head is pertinent to push the story forward and for the reader to get pulled along through the story. I hear some people complain about Stephen King and how his stories can often go on and on with scene descriptions. Some readers love that. Some readers hate that. (Many readers don’t care at all—if it has Stephen King’s name on it, they’ll read it no matter what. Personally, I’m a big S. King fan.) I’m trying to find a happy medium—enough scene description to give the reader a visual image and to set the mood, but not so much that the reader loses the sense of the actual story. My biggest fear with my writing—Here it comes!—is that a reader will come to a section in my book that makes them want to close it and set it aside. I want to be able to hold the reader’s attention long enough for them to read the whole damn book. (Then, hopefully, they’ll post a review somewhere online and share my book. Maybe it’s a good review. Maybe it’s not such a good review. But reviews are gold, and getting them is always a struggle for beginning writers like me.)
Pacing: writing this book made me think long and hard about the pacing and rhythm of a story. I love reading out loud; it helps me really set the mood with my voice, and it helps me get to know the characters better. It also helps me hear the rhythm and pacing better, and it always helps me discover where things are off, or clunky, or too slow or too fast, and where the rhythm falters and makes me trip over the words. Then I know what needs tweaking for a better flow. In my mind—everything makes music, and I want my stories to roll off the tongue like a song you can’t help but sing along with every time you hear it. (But not like one of those simple, crappy formulaic-catchy songs you hate but can’t get out of your head.)
8) Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Joe Hill: I love his work! His writing is a superb mix of heart and horror. When I read his work I can feel how much care he puts into creating each character. I also love his sense of humor. Not that his stories are comedic, but he does drop some little laughs here and there throughout his stories, and I really enjoy that. I also love his musical references he sometimes includes, as well as some throwback references to 70s/80s/90s pop culture. We grew up around the same time, so I immediately pick up on those little nuggets of nostalgia, which satiates the nostalgic side of my brain.
Paul Temblay is another one whose brain I’d love to pick for advice. He, like Hill, writes with a lot of heart. And both Tremblay and Hill can pump out work like crazy. They are very productive writers, and their work never reads like it was a rush job. Tremblay in particular—when I read his horror it’s like he’s in my head. He writes the type of endings I love and that I try to write—the non-ending that’s not tied up in a neat and pretty bow. I love it when stories make people think, they don’t answer all the questions, they don’t spoon feed the meaning to the readers; instead they set your creative mind to work trying to imagine what could come next, or what just went down—like real life. The meaning can be very subjective. I strive to write stories like that, similar to Tremblay.
Elizabeth Hand, Mary SanGiovanni, and Kelly Link: Three women who write very differently, but whose work I love just about equally. I still need to read more from SanGiovanni, but I instantly fell in love with her ability to tell a superb horror story in Behind the Door—no filler, all killer, and a lot of heart. She, like Hill and Tremblay, creates characters that I can sense she truly cares a lot about, which makes me care for them as well. SanGiovanni also writes like Tremblay—horrors happening in the real world. She has the ability to bring supernatural horror into the real world and make it believable, and I admire that and strive for that in my own writing. Elizabeth Hand is another writer, like Hill and Tremblay, who is extremely productive, and, again, her work doesn’t ever read like a rush job. There is so much advice I’d love to get from Elizabeth, and I have—since she was one of my writing mentors in graduate school. She is an all-round kickass woman and kickass writer. Kelly Link—her writing is so extremely magical and imaginative that I can just loose myself in it, and I’d love to know how she weaves such magic without confusing her readers and without having any of it sound like a Disney tale.
Chuck Palahniuk: I love his work, his humor, his cynicism…everything! He is very different from the others I mention here, but I love his work just the same. I think he’s a kind of love him or hate him sort of writer, at least that’s what I get from the responses I hear from others when his name or works are brought up in conversation. His writing is fearless, biting, snarky, and darkly humorous. I greatly admire that and strive to be just as fearless with my work. With that goal of mine, I realize that I have to accept the fact that I will have haters, but that’s fine—it’s nothing new for me. I have an innate and uncanny ability of pressing people’s buttons just by being outspoken-me. I often joke that I inadvertently bring out the worst in people, though that is not my intention. I’ve heard and read interviews with Palahniuk where he’s said things about what a horrible person he is. But when he gives an example of why he thinks he’s so horrible, often that example is exactly how I imagine I would think or act given the same situation. We seem to think in a similar way and have a similar sense of humor and similar cynical perspective of certain subjects, and I’d like to find out how he weaves in those perspectives of society and characters without sounding too preachy or hateful. Who knows—maybe that’s not a concern of his, and maybe that’s why he’s a love him or hate him sort of writer.
9.) Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yes, I have. The first book I wrote is a novel titled Diagnosis. It is complete and revised and edited, but after getting beta reader feedback I have come to realize that the second half of the book needs revision work. I now see that the real story was polluted with an additional theme that convoluted the book as a whole, and I no longer want to have that additional theme prominent in the story. I veered slightly away from the supernatural horror of the beginning, adding in drug addiction horror in the second half that just isn’t working with the main character. I absolutely love that story and love the characters and I do plan to go back and revise that, but right now I am in the middle of a few other big projects: a novel about the true intentions of the invention of the iPhone, the sequel to The Bone Cutters, and a comic book I’ve been commissioned to write.